Friday, March 17, 2006

What are the 'Alt. 3' ?


The Alt. 3 (or Alternative 3) are a set of RPG Design questions that are complimentary to the Big Three. The first person I ever saw use them was Jared A. Sorenson, so I’ll credit him with inventing them until told otherwise. I am fairly certain that he and others have employed them at various seminars at gaming conventions (such as VeriCon) to test the systems of new game designers. The Alt. 3 focus on one very central aspect of a game: “What is your game about?” and then probe that more deeply and more deeply. I’ve actually seen two versions used. Here is the first:

1. What is your game about?

2. How is your game about that?

3. How does your game enforce/reinforce what it’s about?

The second runs something like this:

1. What is your game about?

2. How? How is your game about that?

3. What behaviors does your game reward/punish

As a design exercise, I prefer the former over the latter. It continuously pounds away at the central idea of the game. That’s important. One must look at “What your game is about” in as many lights as possible to truly know exactly what sorts of play and experiences you are wanting as the designer.

The Alt. 3 do not replace the Big Three or the Power 19. Instead, all three sets of questions should be used together as you design your game. Complete a Big Three answer list. Complete a Power 19 Answer list. And then complete an Alt. 3 answer list. Once you have all that done, then you can go back and examine what you have written and know that you have created your own outlines and tools for making a solid RPG.

I can’t stress enough the importance of continually asking questions of yourself. Use as many tools as you can to examine your game from as many angles as you can. Doing that won’t ever replace good old fashion playtesting, proofreading, and feedback, but it sure will cut down on extraneous design elements and wasted space. And that, in and of itself, will make your game better.



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